10.2.18

Do you wanna be in my gang?

What are you doing when you buy a record?

You're buying membership entry into a gang, a cult even. It's the music business's model for monetising alienation. If you own the record it's suggested that you're an initiate in the way someone who doesn't isn't. They might get to enjoy the music but until they own some merchandise - or perhaps see the groop in concert - they're supposed to be on the outside looking in.

The irony is though that you, the buyer, are also on the outside looking in. However much you buy, however many limited edition twelve inches, you're still on the outside. Your face is just pressed closer to the glass. And you love it, you big dummy...

Mechanical reproduction in its unfettered digital incarnation has been a disaster for the music business. Streaming, a catastrophe. Because they erode that fundamental concept of ownership and its relation to belonging. Certainly, the wagon still continues to roll, but that psychological contract is weakened. This is where blockchain may come in. The use of a blockchain "removes the characteristic of infinite reproducibility from a digital asset". It's the dawning of a new digital era.

I'm not particularly transfixed by this lady Imogen Heap, and I'm underwhelmed by the rhetoric she has built around the Mycelia Music blockchain software: "To empower a fair, sustainable and vibrant music industry ecosystem involving all online music interaction services" - yawn, it sounds pretty dull. But there's something happening here.

Mycelia, or its successor, will only triumph when it taps into all those horrible emotions. It will triumph, not out of respect for the little guy, but out of greed and envy. When only 100 people can own that exclusive track. Imagine if The Beatles had stopped issuing White Albums at 624570.

It's hard to imagine against the backdrop of streaming music how this could map out - essentially a step backwards to downloading. But it's acutely possible. Also, and this is perhaps controversial, but I would think that, re-shackled to irreproducible talismans, or at least partaking of some kind of exclusivity, people will once again find music touches them more profoundly. Sad but true.